With Paris still reeling from unconscionable terror attacks, the city now must gear up for a gathering of world leaders discussing another large threat to international security: global climate change.
The Islamic State, or any future deranged gang of evildoers, must not be allowed to deter the important work of nations worldwide cooperating to avoid the calamities linked to climate degradation.
The United Nations climate change summit will launch on Monday, and any eventual deal will mark the start, not the end, of the process. But a start is desperately needed.
President Barack Obama’s administration will present a comprehensive action plan. Unfortunately, climate change deniers are still prevalent in the United States, trying to confuse many Americans about the overwhelming scientific evidence that demands action to curb the dangers ahead from climate calamities.
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As the United Kingdom foreign secretary Philip Hammond pointed out in an important speech to conservatives in the U.S. only days before the Paris attacks: “Unchecked climate change … could have catastrophic consequences — a rise in global temperatures … leading in turn to rising sea levels and huge movements of people fueling conflict and instability.”
Perhaps even more surprising, he told the American Enterprise Institute crowd that fixing climate change is good for business, not the crushing boot on the economy that many doubters like to erroneously forecast.
Not long after his speech, the U.K. released a plan calling for an end to coal-fired plants in 10 years. Meanwhile Germany is on a path to shutter its nuclear plants, with solar and wind efforts expanding significantly.
Here in the United States, Obama announced a promising Clean Power Plan in August, the first carbon pollution standards for existing power plants, aiming for a 32 percent reduction from 2005 levels in carbon pollution by 2030. It faces tough scrutiny, with portions even challenged by some Democratic allies, including U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill and state Attorney General Chris Koster, both of Missouri.
The two U.S. senators from Kansas — Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts — and Missouri’s Roy Blunt endorsed a resolution opposing Obama’s climate efforts in the spring. McCaskill did not.
Under Obama’s plan, states will determine how to reach emissions goals, with the administration rightly emphasizing that lower carbon dioxide emissions will prevent premature deaths, reduce heart attacks and asthma attacks and cut sick days.
Some businesses have balked, but cleaner energy means new jobs in renewable energy generation and lower energy bills for families. Business writ large does not lose. Only the businesses that remain wedded to dirty fuels do.
Meanwhile, administration officials estimate consumers will save $155 billion from 2020 to 2030.
If we can breathe cleaner air, if innovations can tame the wild weather swings, if the temperature rise can be held in check, humanity might blunt a global chaos.
Records show 2014 was the hottest year on record globally, and 2015 is on track to break that record.
Fortunately, there’s no indication any of the expected 190 delegations heading to Paris will let fear stop them. Environmentalists and business groups from around the world will attend the meeting known as “COP21.”
Paris is now perhaps the perfect spot for world leaders to unite. It shows that the civilized world, through united action and innovation can aim to create a healthier, safer world.